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Attorney General Mills Advises Consumers to be on the Lookout for Travel and Timeshare Scams
May 22, 2013
AUGUSTA – With Memorial Day approaching more Mainers may start to receive solicitations from bogus companies enticing them take a free or incredibly cheap vacation or for an exceptional opportunity to sell their existing timeshare. Attorney General Mills asks consumers to be leery of any consumer deal that sounds too good to be true, because it probably is.
Not sure if you’re dealing with a travel scam? Here are six signs that sun-splashed getaway isn’t what it seems:
You “won a free vacation,” but you have to pay some fees first. A legitimate company won’t ask you to pay for a prize.
The prize company wants your credit card number. Even if they say it’s just for “verification,” “taxes,” or “port fees,” don’t give it to them.
They cold-call, cold-text, or email you out of the blue. Before you do business with any company you don’t know, call the Attorney General’s office; then, search online by entering the company name and the word “complaints” or “scam.”
They don’t — or can’t —give you specifics. They promise a stay at a “five-star” resort or a cruise on a “luxury” ship. The more vague the promises, the less likely they’ll be true. Ask for specifics, and get them in writing.
You get pressure to sign up for a travel club for great deals on future vacations. The pressure to sign up or miss out is a sign to walk away. Travel clubs often have high membership fees and limited choice of destinations or travel dates.
You get a robocall about it. Robocalls from companies are illegal if you haven’t given a company written permission to call you. That’s true even if you haven’t signed up for the national Do Not Call Registry.
Want to sell your timeshare? You might get a call from a company that says they have someone ready to buy your place, or that they’ll sell it for you in a short time, if you pay them a fee first. One problem: they don’t have a buyer, and if you pay, you may never hear from them again — or get the refund they’ve promised.
Before you sell a timeshare:
Check out the company before you agree to anything. See if the Attorney General and local consumer protection agencies in the company’s home state have complaints, then search online by entering the company name and the word “complaints” or “scam.”
Deal only with licensed real estate brokers or agents. Check with the Real Estate Commission in the state where your timeshare is located to make sure the company has a current license.
Get all terms in writing before you agree to anything. That includes services that will be performed, timing of the sale, fees and commissions, cancellation and refund policies. If a company says you have to act now or you might miss out on a buyer, it’s not a company you want to do business with.
Consider doing business only with someone who gets paid after the timeshare is sold. Don’t wire money or pay in cash.
Be alert to a repeat scam. If you were scammed once by a timeshare reseller, another scammer might offer to help get your money back — for a fee. Legitimate companies don’t ask you to pay before you’ve gotten your money back.
Read more about timeshares and vacation plans on the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0073-timeshares-and-vacation-plans
If you think you may have been targeted by scam, report it to the Maine Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-436-2131 or 626-8849 Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. – noon and 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.